Will a New Bill to Boost U.S. Tourism Help or Hurt?

"We need an umbrella approach. The U.S.A. brand is silent in this effort. By leveraging a U.S.A. brand, we are going to be that much more effective," Beteta said.

International travel to the United States remains below 2001 levels. Last year was the eighth straight year in which overseas arrivals fell short of pre-Sept. 11 levels, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Canadians remain the top international visitors to the United States, but with the new program, the tourism industry is hoping to tap into burgeoning markets, like Brazil, China and India.

New Tourism Bill Practical or Political?

Republicans who held up the bill in the Senate argue that it is nothing more than government interference in the tourism sector. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is locked in a tough re-election campaign and represents Nevada, a prime destination for tourists, billed it as legislation that would spur jobs.

With health care and now jobs on the forefront, the current Congress has largely sidestepped legislation related to travel. The FAA Reauthorization Act, which passed the House in May, is stuck in the Senate. The bill calls for modernizing the air traffic control system by funding the "NextGen" system, improving aviation safety and capacity, and adding more passenger rights.

"As far as we're concerned, there's more work to be done," said Colin Tooze, vice president of government affairs at the American Society of Travel Agents.

Not to mention, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is still missing a chief. Obama's nominee, Erroll Southers, withdrew his name from the post after heavy criticism from Republicans.

It remains to be seen whether the new tourism bill results in a significant upturn in tourism. The domestic travel industry, which has tirelessly pushed for the bill's passage, estimates that it would draw an additional 1.6 million new visitors and $4 billion in consumer spending annually.

For politicians, it's the other math that counts more. The program is estimated to create new jobs -- although the number hasn't been specified -- and reduce the federal budget by $425 million. At a time when the deficit is at a record high and lawmakers are struggling to come up with ways to reduce the budget, this bill sinks in well for campaign posturing.

The fee is expected to raise $100 million per year from foreign travelers and a matching amount from the private industry for a total of $200 million to fund the board and its promotional campaign.

"This is an easy thing to sell to your constituents because it costs you nothing. It costs foreigners something," Snyder said.

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